Keeping snails as pets has become trendy in recent years. The trend gained massive momentum with the recent pandemic and the quarantine that came with it. Snails are what you can consider easy pets. They don’t need a lot of caring and watching them slithering on their way is pleasing. It is probably much easier to take care of them compared to other traditional pets like cats, dogs, fish, birds, etc. But you still need to remember that this is a living creature. Therefore, it requires some attention to keep it safe and more important, to keep the owner (you) safe.
8 top reasons why you would want to keep pet snails
Before getting into which snail species to get, how to find it and how to take care of it, you might wonder why you should get a snail as a pet in the first place. Well, snails have a lot of qualities that make them a better choice. This might be compared to other pets or compared to no pets at all.
Easy to keep
Land snails adapt very well in different conditions. You can keep them in just a plastic container, make their own habitat by yourself or buy a glass terrarium from a pet store. It will all be the same to them and you will not hear them complain. Land snails and freshwater snails are usually not poisonous.
Caring for pet snails is very simple. You can feed them once a day or every couple of days. Don’t worry about them eating too much. As soon as they are full, they will stop eating. You don’t have to provide them with fresh water. They can get water from their food and from the humidity in the air. You can clean their living terrarium once every couple of weeks.
No need for a walk
Snails spend most of the time on their own. Some owners might bring their pet to the gardens for a change of scenery. Others might take them to parties and other gatherings. However, it’s totally fine to leave your new friend inside its living terrarium all the time.
Interesting to observe
Watching a snail do what he usually does can be very relaxing and interesting. They are slowly gliding from one place to another. Most of the time, they defy gravity by sticking to a vertical wall or even upside down. They are going in and out of their shell home and using their two sets of tentacles. Other activities like eating, mating, laying eggs, are truly spectacular.
You can get one at no cost by picking a garden snail. If you are interested, you can buy exotic species at pet dealers at reasonable prices. The snail’s food is left-over veggies from your fridge. They don’t actually need to be taken to the vet for periodic checking. Basically, the largest expense for keeping a snail as a pet is the terrarium. Which like we said, can be DIY terrarium.
Great for kids
Kids can take care of pet snails with little supervision from the adults. Once they learn how to keep themselves, they are pretty much set. This basically sums up to washing hands with soap (see snail soap dispenser review) before and after they hold them. They need to be taught the right way to pick up the snail and that is pretty much everything. The snail life cycle is not only interesting to them, but it can teach them a lot of things.
Another good reason to have this unique pet, is because they are very quiet. They will not bother your neighbors with barking. They will not wake you up early in the morning or late at night. They will slowly and quietly glide so no one will be bothered by them.
Great for busy schedule
Normally, you would want to take care of your snail at least once a day. That care will usually provide him fresh food, spray the terrarium with some water and generally check on him and its living condition. However, with a proper setup you can leave them unattended for about a month. They need to have enough fresh air, constant high levels of humidity and some food that cannot rot. Having said that, this is not usually recommended.
You can find an offline guide you can download here.
Best types of snails for a pet
There are many things to consider when choosing the right snail for you as the new pet. Most people will decide based on how it looks. This is definitely a factor but when it comes to snails, there is another, more important factor to consider. Some types of snails can transfer diseases that can hurt the environment or humans. Also, Some species are considered very invasive. In fact, the list of the 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Species has not one but three species of snails.
Having said that, it is very important that you do not import snails from different countries or states before you confirm it is legal to do so. Even if you got one from outside your home, it is important that you make sure it is native to this area in case you are planning to release it back into the wild.
A good place to start, is to decide if you prefer to have a land pet snail, a freshwater pet snail or a saltwater pet snail.
Probably the most popular snail to have as a pet is the garden snails. It is a dark-brown land snail type that you can easily get without any cost. Moreover, taking care of this small creature is simple. If you do not want to keep it for a long time, you can just put it back to nature. It is around 1.5 inches in size (about 4 cm) and has brown color.
Apart from the general attributes of snails, Roman snails are widely used in biology classrooms for enriching student’s observations. Snails’ life span is actually longer in captivity. Although this species is legal in the US, they are protected in the IUCN Red List. Killing or commercializing them is illegal in the UK.
Giant African Land Snail
Giant African Land Snails are easy to take care of. As their name implies, their size is huge as the adults can be as big as your palms. One of the best parts about this land snail you might not know: the Giant African Land Snails have an excellent sense of smell, that helps them to recognize the owner. However, this species is illegal to have as a pet in the US and in some other countries as they are very destructive to the corps.
If you are looking for a freshwater snail, the apple snail is probably the best choice. They are very popular, attractive in their appearance in both color and size. The most popular type is the spike-topped apple snail, which has different colors like: blue, yellow, pink, brown, etc..
You can easily find apple snails in any aquarium pet shop at a reasonable price.
Where to get pet snails
The easiest (and cheapest) way to get a snail pet is by looking around your garden. Probably you can find a garden snail or a roman snail tucking under leaves or plant pots. You can find them in many parts of nature. So if you didn’t find one in your garden, you can try to look for them in wooded areas around your neighborhood. Some tips on finding them in nature are looking for them after a rainy day or during the evening. They are much harder to find during a hot day.
If you want them right away, there are pet snails for sale in a lot of aquariums and pet shops. These are nowadays selling various species (from adults to babies). Whether it is a garden snail or a turbo snail, you can just pay a visit to one of those shops and bring one home.
Another option is to get your pet snails delivered to your door. You can buy them online from eBay, Amazon, etc. There are also a lot of online stores that will supply you in just a few clicks.
How many should you get
The average snail is small in size so you might ask yourself how many you should get and keep. There are a couple of points to consider before you decide.
First, most people are not aware but snails are actually social creatures. Many researches show that when given the opportunity, a snail will prefer to eat next to another one. For example, if you offer them some pieces of lettuce, you will see at least a couple going to the same piece. In addition, when there are several snails, they will usually sleep close to each other which also indicates that they enjoy companionship.
So if you believe your new pet will be lonely and want to get him a friend, you can get a couple and put them together. The difference in space is minimal and it will not require that much more effort from you.
If you do decide to get more than one, make sure that both (or all) of them are from the same species. Keeping different species can be harmful because some snails have diseases that can be harmful to other species.
On the other hand, most snails are hermaphrodite. This means that every snail has both the male and female reproductive organs. Each can produce the sperm and the egg. So every two snails from the same species can reproduce and make snail babies.
If your mind is set on getting more than two snails in one terrarium, you also need to decide whether or not you are planning to reproduce them. Since they can give birth to hundreds of eggs at one time and reproduce several times each year, you might find yourself in a problem really fast.
The way snails reproduce is fascinating and there are several procedures to apply when you are going to go that route. Probably the most important one is to keep the eggs away from the adults to prevent them from eating the eggs. Reproducing snails for a profit is called Heliciculture and there are known techniques to achieve that. You can read more about it in our snail farming section.
For those who are not looking into expanding their snail population, it is also advised to remove the eggs as quickly as possible. This should be done before they hatch. They should be disposed of in an environmentally safe way. If you would just throw them out as they might hatch outside and become an issue.
Keeping and caring for new pet
As we previously said, snail care is easy. It would be useful for you to know a little more about the snails anatomy but it is not mandatory. There are several things to pay attention to in order to maintain the snail’s well-being and the safety of its owner. Those things are very low cost and do not require much effort. The below comprehensive snail care guide will answer most questions a snail pet owner might have.
We created a couple of free calculators that will (hopefully) help you understand what tank you need to prepare for keeping pet snail.
The first calculator can help you get the size in gallons, from dimensions.
The second one is kind of a thumb rule calculator for the size of tank needed for the amount and type of snails you are planning to have. Please keep in mind this is a beta calculator and we would like to improve it based on readers’ suggestions. So let us know what you think!
Tank Dimensions Calculator
Tank Size Calculator
Depending on how long you want to keep the snails, you may take a plastic box to make the home for your pets (if you just want to observe for a few weeks). Otherwise, a glass terrarium with a fitting lid will be the better option. Making a DIY terrarium is also possible without too much effort.
Do not use paper or cardboard containers as a tank. Believe it or not, they can eat the walls and escape.
The size of the terrarium for your snails is calculated based on two main factors. The size of the snail and the amount you are planning to keep. You can go into specific consideration but generally speaking, one gallon per snail should be sufficient in most cases.
Still, even if you will get a relatively large tank of 10 gallons for one snail, it isn’t really too space consuming.
You can read more about snail terrariums here.
In any case, you need to clean the home before you start preparing it for your new tenants. The terrarium needs to be thoroughly cleaned using soap. You then need to clean the soap really well to remove all leftovers as this can be harmful for your pet.
Cleaning the tank after the snail is living there is also easy. Simply take the snail into a temporary place. Remove any food leftovers before they go bad and wipe the tank walls with wet cloth or paper.
A recommended terrarium is Zilla Micro Habitats Terrestrial.
The substrate for snails is what you place in the bottom of the terrarium. It can be many things like planting soil, coir (which is a natural fiber extracted from the outer shell of coconuts), humus, turf, etc. The substrate should be about 1-2 inches thick (3-6 cm). It is important to keep in mind that the snails will probably want to dig into this substrate so it is not recommended to use anything like stones, pebbles, sand or anything that will make them more difficult to dig in.
No matter what kind of substrate you end up choosing, you have to pay attention to two critical points. The material needs to be free of chemicals and free of pests. Especially if you decide to use soil and dirt you find outside. Chemicals and pesticides can obviously kill your snails. But unseen pests can cause severe damage as well.
Some people go through the trouble of sterilizing the soil by putting it in very high or very low temperatures. For example putting it in the oven or in the freezer. However, that is not needed in most cases.
The pH level of the soil is also important. It should have a pH level of above 6. Lower than that means the soil can be too acidic for the little guy and we want a healthy snail. Soil testers are very cheap and you can easily buy it in many stores or online.
On top of the substrate it is recommended to have sphagnum moss. The moss will make your snail happy and also help keep the humidity high which is very important.
Like many living creatures, snails take up oxygen (O2) and release carbon dioxide (CO2). It is important the that house of the pet snail will always get fresh air. If you buy your terrarium from a store, you probably already have some kind of opening in the lids. Make sure they are smaller than your snail or it might run out (or glide very slowly out). If you are making your own home for the snail, make a few holes in the box so air can move in and out.
The lid of the terrarium must be securely closed with no gaps. Snails are delicate but they can lift a dozen times their own weight. If you cover the box with a small cardboard box you might wake up one morning to find an empty home.
Temperature and humidity
Snails are pretty flexible in many ways including their preferred temperature. There are snail species that live in the deserts while others live in the snow. However, for the common garden snail pet, a suitable temperature can be between 65-85 F (18-30 C). When it is too hot for them they will go inside their shell to rest and wait for a cooler time. When it gets too cold, they will try to dig into the soil and will close the lid of their shell until it is warmer.
The terrarium must be kept away from direct sunlight as it can become too hot for the snail. Without a way to find a cooler place, the snail might die.
If your home (or wherever you keep your pet) is colder than 65 degrees, you probably should equip the terrarium with a heating pad. You can heat only part of the terrarium and by that allow the snail to find its own sweet spot.
Humidity is very important for snails. The optimal humidity for snail growth is around 75%-90%, and it can be easily achieved by using a small spraying bottle. You can spray some water inside the habitat once a day or every couple of days depending on how humid the room is.
Getting a temperature and humidity meter is something that can be bought for very cheap. It will make the supervision of the conditions much easier. So make sure you get something inexpensive but useful like this one.
Making it a home
The habitat is almost ready. Just before you are putting the snail in, the last step will be to make this terrarium into a home.
Snails enjoy hiding, climbing and gliding all around. Place some plant pots, small tree branches, pieces of bark or anything like that to keep the snail entertained.
The home decoration should be something that does not rotten or can damage the little guy. Many items that work for other pets like lizards, iguanas, etc. will do just fine. For example cork bark, leaf, etc.
How to feed pet snails
Most snails are vegetarian (or more correctly, herbivores). They are easily fed with apples, carrots, cucumber, and leafy greens. Providing them a dish of these veggies once a day is sufficient. You don’t have to worry about giving them too much food. Unlike many other pets, they will stop eating when they are full and pick up later when they are ready to eat again.
The food doesn’t have to be placed in a food bowl. But make sure you will not have rotten food and remove it before it gets bad. The food has to be cleaned to remove any pesticides or residue. Organic fruits and vegetables are preferred but they need to be washed as well.
A key ingredient in the snail diet is a source of calcium. Calcium is very important for the snail’s shell. It makes it stronger and bigger. There are many ways to provide calcium to your pet. You can crush empty eggshells, chalk, etc. However, probably the best and easiest way is just to throw cuttlefish bones in the tank. A cuttlefish bone is something you can find in any pet store.
In any case, do not feed your new pet with any citrus food and never put salt in their tank.
It is not mandatory to put water in your adult snail terrarium. They usually get their water from the humidity in the air and from their food. If you are interested, you can place a shallow dish of water inside the tank. Don’t put anything deep as they can easily drown.
How to hold pet snails
Before you hold your snail pet, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Wash away all soap residue and dry your hands. Next, get your hands a little moist. The easiest way to do it is by using your water spray bottle.
Now for picking up the little guy. Never pick it from its body with your fingers. It is also not recommended to pick up your snail from its shell. Especially if it hangs on tightly to whatever surface it is on. Force pick up in such a way can break his shell or hurt the part that connects the shell to the body.
The best way to pick it up is to invite it to crawl onto your hands. You can also encourage it to go on a leaf you place in front of it and pick up the leaf.
The snail might enjoy gliding on your hands and fingers for a few minutes. But he will probably feel more comfortable in its tank so try not to hold it for periods of time longer than 10 minutes.
After you finish playing with your pet, place it gently back in its home. Then wash your hand again very thoroughly with soap and water.
Although they can be cute pets, they can also be a source for diseases so sanitary is very important.
Keeping snails is a great way for connecting with nature and also helping many of us to reduce stress in this busy world. Hopefully, this ultimate pet snail guide helped you understand how exciting it can be to become a snail pet owner.
If you are looking for additional information on how to take care of a pet snail, you can buy our Guide to Pet Snail Owners eBook.
Another book worth mentioning is Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. While it is not a book about taking care of snails, it tells the inspiring story of a woman that had to stay in bed due to illness and how to become friends with a land snail.
Name your pet. Would you prefer a funny name like: Speedy, Crusher, Hercules, Rocket, etc. Or maybe a normal person’s name like: Jack, Phil, Myra, etc. Head over to our snail pet names article for some ideas.
Open an Instagram account and get some cute pictures.